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2004-08-10 18:01:11

Sophisticated Criminals Challenge Police

''On the internet, it is easy for a criminal to create a fictitious identity to perpetuate frauds, extortions, counterfeit and other crimes,'' says Acting Commissioner of Police, John Rolle.

Police officials have reported an increase in the amount of counterfeit US currency in circulation, a technical challenge that has contributed millions of dollars to the big business of cyber crime.

Over the past several weeks, United States Embassy officials have admitted seeing “more than a few good and not-so-good' counterfeit $100 bills on the streets, in part because of unsuspecting Bahamians.

US Charges d'Affaires, Robert Witajewski has pointed out that this may be the case considering that as a prime vacation destination and financial centre, The Bahamas welcomes tens of thousands of tourists weekly, who are occasionally not as vigilant as they should be.

“The best thing is for Bahamians to be vigilant,' he told the Bahama Journal Monday.

“If you have any doubts about a (US) currency that someone is trying to give to you, go to a bank and see what they say about it. People are being defrauded out of billions of dollars a month. The invention of the computer and the laptop has made it easier for criminals to do their activities and to defraud and cheat on unsuspecting, honest people.'

The United States earlier this year released a mass circulation of several new notes including the $50 and $20 bills.

The new $20s are peach-toned with blue ink, making it the first time in almost 100 years that the U.S. note has prominently contained a color besides green and black. They also contain an embedded vertical plastic strip and color-shifting ink. A new $100 bill will be introduced in 2005.

According to the US Federal Government, the change in color is designed to stop counterfeiters.

In the meantime, officials of the U.S. Justice Department, the Attorney General's office and local law enforcement officers are determined to address the issue during an intense three-day workshop aimed at combating economic fraud.

Held at the Wyndham Nassau Resort & Crystal Palace Casino, the course is designed to introduce participants to current international trends on financial systems fraud, specifically as they relate to financial institutions, credit cards and money laundering.

Participants will examine the trends in electronic crime using computers and telecommunications fraud with a particular emphasis on current international schemes.

They will also be presented profiles of emerging financial criminals and the implications for both The Bahamas and the United States.

But according to Acting Commissioner of Police, John Rolle, today's use of more organized and sophisticated methods would ultimately translate into a much greater challenge for law enforcement officers.

“On the internet, it is easy for a criminal to create a fictitious identity to perpetuate frauds, extortions, counterfeit and other crimes,' he said.

“Since many computer crimes such as trading pirated software of child pornography can be committed entirely on-line, this mystery can significantly complicate an investigation.'

Mr. Rolle added that the Internet's borderless nature only further compounds the problem, as a cyber criminal anywhere in the world could victimize individuals and businesses.

“The tremendous power of today's computers makes it possible for a single cyber criminal to do a staggering amount of damage, damage beyond what a single person could typically do in the traditional criminal world,' he pointed out.

“For example, a sophisticated cyber criminal can release a virus or launch a denial of service attack affecting hundreds of thousands of computer users or critical infrastructures like power grids.'

While there are no exact figures on the cost of cyber crime in The Bahamas, officials estimate the problem to contribute to billions of dollars in damages.

Macushla N. Pinder, The Bahama Journal

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